THE VMOF WILL PROVIDE FINANCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT FOR SPECIFIC BREAST CANCER CARE PROJECTS IN LOWER AND MIDDLE–LOWER INCOME COUNTRIES (LMICS):
The VMOF will be reviewing the pertinence of LMIC-based projects submitted to the VMOF by local International Delegates who provide the project details and agree to oversee the project and ensure the provided help goes directly to patients in need. Their commitment to face the challenges and overcome the obstacles to breast cancer care give them the credibility to identify worthy projects in their respective countries that the VMOF could support. Should the VMOF and its partners decide to fund a worthy proposed international project, such as the current project to build a Breast Center in Jérémie, Haiti, it is with the reassurance that the project will be carried out under the two local on-site International Delegates who will supervise and have the responsibility to ensure that the expected positive impact will reach their breast cancer patients.
Women’s health in LMICs has focused solely on their role as mothers: Haitian women are the heart of the family as well as the social and economic head of many households. The loss of a mother in Haiti is devastating to the family as her children are at greater risk of malnutrition and death by the age of 12. One study in Port-au-Prince found that 79% of women presented with advanced breast cancer, the very opposite situation from developed countries. Haiti has no national guidelines or standards for breast cancer care, nor the funding for their implementation. While surgical intervention is available in cities like Port-au-Prince, women living in rural areas like Grand Anse, a rural Haitian Province (see map), have limited or no access to these options. Therefore, breast health services must begin with families in rural villages, local health workers, clinic nurses, diagnostic personnel, medical doctors, surgeons, epidemiologists and fellow survivors.
History of Breast Cancer Initiatives in Rural Grand Anse
The Grand Anse province has never had systematic breast-health programs. Despite the need for services in Jérémie, the provincial capital city, breast health has only been addressed through sporadic education of the few nurses and intermittent sessions for clinical breast examination. Early efforts in breast biopsy and pathology assessment began in 1990 through affiliated Hartford Hospital volunteers.
The challenges faced are many:
CURRENT PROJECT TO BUILD A BREAST CENTER IN JÉRÉMIE, HAITI
A comprehensive program for Grand Anse women and their families includes building a new Breast Center based at the St. Antoine Hospital in Jérémie. Steps towards this goal have already been taken. In 2015, the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC), via its International Delegate program, chaired by Dr. John Keyserlingk of Montreal, funded the Jérémie public health anthropologist and nurse, Bette Gebrian, RN, MPH, PhD as an International Delegate from Haiti to attend their 2015 annual Conference in the US. Relationships were forged and areas of collaboration identified. In 2016, Dr. Jean Robert Dougé, a Haitian physician also from Jérémie, was granted an even more extensive Mini-Fellowship at the VM Multi-Disciplinary Breast and Oncology Center in Montreal to learn all aspects of breast cancer management, from counselling to post-surgical treatment. Dr. Dougé also attended the NCBC Annual Breast Cancer Convention and addressed the several hundred participants regarding the need for a Women’s Health Program in Haiti.
Both Dr. Dougé and Nurse Gebrian are well-known to the Ville Marie Oncology Foundation (VMOF) and both are on-site in Jérémie to oversee this joint project and ensure that any support from the VMOF gets to the patients who are most in-need, and is not tied up in all-too-often administrative or bureaucratic matters.
Mathilde’s Story from Grand Anse, Haiti
Mathilde held her arms close to her chest as if to hide the extensive ravages of her breast cancer that lay beneath. There was nothing more to be done at the local hospital and she was being discharged. During this process, she mentioned that she had no money for the trip home to her village and had not eaten that day; the very little money she had left was needed for food. This situation was explained to a visiting surgeon who happened to be touring the local rural hospital. With tears in his eyes, he offered her some money for the trip home, but could not get her out of his mind: how could it be that this young woman and mother had received no prior care? Unfortunately, advanced medical care in the capital city of Port-au-Prince was impossible, as Mathilde had no family there. She had hidden her “condition” until it was too late. Ultimately, the social and financial cost of Mathilde’s care was too great. The visiting surgeon was touched by Mathilde’s story and experience, which is unfortunately similar for many Haitian women, and though she could not be saved at this point, she was not forgotten. She was soon brought back from her village to St. Antoine, the Haitian government hospital in Jérémie. A nurse gently cleaned the wound as can be seen in the image beside. From St. Antoine, she was brought to the hospice of the Missionaries of Charity. She was fed, her wound dressed and she was nursed with loving care. Her husband and children made the trip to see her over the next two weeks. The odour was gone, and her pain under control because of a small gift of pain medication, an item that many outside of Haiti take for granted. Shortly after, she passed away from the disease. She was only 52 years old.
PLEASE DONATE TO THE VMOF INTERNATIONAL PROJECT TO HELP BUILD A BREAST CENTER IN JÉRÉMIE, HAITI
To donate, please click here
Tax-deductible forms will be provided on-line.
Donate today and be able to say, “I know what happened to my donation dollars.”